Helping graduating seniors cope with COVID-19’s impact
Monday, April 06, 2020
The COVID-19 crisis of 2020, featuring unprecedented calls by states for social distancing and the emergence of remote learning in schools from coast to coast, has left our teens feeling helpless, especially our soon-to-be high school graduates. As educators, we need to help them through this difficult time. Consider the situation through their eyes, in an open letter that I have written to them.
Dear Class of 2020 Graduates,
This was unexpected. As adults, we can try to say that we know what you are going through. We can try to tell you to look on the bright side and be thankful for what you have. We can remind you that you can still talk to your friends online. The reality is, we don’t really know what you are going through. The COVID-19 crisis of 2020 has profoundly changed the way our society operates right now and for you, the timing couldn’t be any worse.
You are supposed to be entering into your final weeks before graduation. There should be varsity seasons to play, and championships to be won. You should be dressing up for the prom, playing in your final music concert, and performing with your theater club for one last show. You should be spending time with your friends — friends that you may not be able to see again on a regular basis after high school ends. Perhaps most importantly, you should be getting excited to walk across that stage, in your cap and gown, in front of your friends and your family, finally able to hold that piece of paper you have been longing for. These are the rights of passage that you have been waiting for, and yet they all sit just out of your reach right now.
The reality is, we don’t know when we will be able to return to normal. Your senior year will end differently than any other senior year that any of us (adults included) can remember. We can’t expect you to be okay with this, and we can’t expect you to like it. All we can do for you right now is be empathetic to your situation, and try when we can to bring back any opportunity for a taste of normal that we can for you before you close out your senior year. We will be with you, every step of the way.
Your Teachers and your School Principals
The Child Mind Institute recently published an article on supporting teenagers and young adults during the coronavirus crisis. In it, they offered these tips for parents during this stressful time:
- Emphasize social distancing
- Understand their frustration over not seeing friends
- Support remote schooling
- Encourage healthy habits
- Validate their disappointment
- Help them practice mindfulness
For educators and principals, the decision about what to do with end-of-year activities still remains undecided, but many signs point to a sobering reality that big senior events will need to be cancelled, held virtually, or postponed to later in the summer or early fall. It is hard to predict the future, but principals should work with their communities to determine the best course of action.
In my New Hampshire school, I’ve started these discussions with my seniors — their input into what they would like to see is important to me. Should we have to plan alternate events, I want them to have a voice in how these are designed.
There is no doubt that the past two weeks have taught us much about our educational system. As we navigate these uncertain times, let’s keep in mind the students who are caught in the crosshairs of the battle. We owe this to them.
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